Those microorganisms feed the E. coli, which will be retrofitted with a new genetic circuit to provide the code for a set of proteins that Zaiken says will "recruit, use and recycle cellular fuel" to emit light. It's kind of like making a terrarium inside a small light bulb.
Zaiken says the bulb could be recharged by ambient light sources found around the house during the day. The idea is that such light would feed the microorganisms that feed the E.coli, keeping them alive and repeatedly glowing for days, or even months.
Researchers say they plan on experimenting with different bioluminescence proteins to determine which species' native genes produce the best glow. "We also plan to experiment with techniques to combat mutation in the plasmid, different colored light emission, and different triggers for the activation of the glowing bacteria," the researchers write.
BLOG: Bacteria Boos Sunscreen
No word yet on how much light a Biobulb would give off, but the project is still in the development stage as a finalist in the Popular Science #CrowdGrant Challenge. Zaiken and his teammates – Alexandra Cohn and AnaElise Beckman - recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for an easy-to-use Biobulb kit.